Monday, May 2, 2022

Is laughter really the best medicine? 



Most of us have heard it, or read it on a sign in our grandparents living room, “laughter is the best medicine.” Could it be true? According to the Mayo clinic laughter can have some pretty strong positive correlations when it comes to stress relief. Some short term effects of laughter can be as follows: stimulating your organs and releasing endorphins into your body. Ever laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe? Well those moments after when you finally catch your breath can help send oxygen to places like your brain and also releases dopamine(pleasure & motivation) and endorphins (feel good chemicals) into your body. Laughter also helps cool down your stress response. Do you have cortisol (STRESS) racing through your bloodstream? Well it turns out a good belly chuckle can help decrease your heart rate and your blood pressure and help relieve your body of that stress. 

If you aren’t already sold (really what more could I say?) laughter also has some LONG TERM EFFECTS, that's right you heard it first folks laughter can improve your mood, improve your immune system, relieve pain, and even increase personal satisfaction. Laughter has shown to help lessen stress, depression and anxiety as well as improve your self-esteem. Feeling stressed? Laugh! You can laugh at a friend (or with..), laugh at dog videos or even laugh at yourself. It turns out that laughter really could be the best medicine. So throw away your apples, and instead have a laugh. AND REMEMBER, self care is NOT a joke, but joking could be self care. 

Take care of yourself folks, laugh a little (or a LOT)! 

Resources: 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art -20044456#:~:text=Improve%20your%20mood.&text=Laughter%20can%20help%20les sen%20your,also%20improve%20your%20self%2Desteem.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Make Sure Your Friends Are Okay. 

 

There is no better way to describe MSYFAO than they do on their website, “we’re starting a conversation about conversation — building a community that encourages you to have meaningful discussions with people you care about”. The topic of mental health is becoming less taboo, especially since the pandemic, which has left many wanting to get the conversation started but not knowing how. Make Sure Your Friends Are Okay provides resources that can help any individual navigate some of the most common tough talks. Some of the resources include “Helping Friends Experiencing Abuse”, “Talking to A Friend with An Eating Disorder”, “Making Friends as An Adult”, “How to Be A Better Listener” and more. Make Sure Your Friends Are Okay is providing a platform for people to feel comfortable talking about not only their mental health, but in asking friends and family about theirs. They also sell some merchandise where they donate a portion of the proceeds to help mental health organizations. In addition to promoting checking on your friends they also promote taking care of yourself. With the dark times of the pandemic and the turmoil going on in Ukraine I want to encourage you to reach out and Make Sure Your Friends Are Okay. 

 

Make sure your friends are okay. Make Sure Your Friends Are Okay. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2022, from https://www.makesureyourfriendsareokay.com/ 

Friday, February 25, 2022


War breaks out in Ukraine as Russia invades!

How to help your children & talk to them about Violence & War!

Contributed by: Becky J. Wolery, PsyD

Recent findings: "Children's contact with media coverage of war is pervasive and is associated with numerous outcomes and with their parents' reactions. Younger children are more affected by news stories with visual cues, while older children are more distressed by stories about actual threat." (1)

Don't let your children be a victim of vicarious trauma by continually exposing them to traumatic events. Vicarious traumatization is a negative reaction to trauma exposure and includes a range of psychosocial symptoms. Children especially may exhibit symptoms such as emotional reactivity, irritability, outbursts, aggressiveness, sleeplessness, distractibility, clinging behavior, fear of being along, eating more/less, worrying, feeling vulnerable or helpless, somatic symptoms (stomach aches/headaches), bedwetting, nightmares, and tension or fighting in relationships (siblings/friends/parents). It is not possible to protect children from all exposures of violence or war events. The following guidelines can help minimize the risk to your children. Seek professional help if your child begins to exhibit some of the symptoms above.

 What can you do to help!

1.  Avoid exposure to horrific news and pictures and minimize the amount of exposure of general news about the events. i.e. young children exposed repetitively to the twin towers falling in the 9-11 attack in U.S. thought the attacks kept happening over and over again.

2. Identify a time and place for your children to talk and ask questions. Let them know their questions and concerns are very important. Don't force children to talk about things if they are not ready. Some children will simply want to be children by playing and ignoring the problems which can help them feel safe or cope better.

2. Provide re-assurance that your family is safe, but don't make unrealistic promises. Young children up to middle school age may believe that the violence or attacks are happening near them and they may be next.

3. In communicating, use words and concepts your child understands. Use explanations appropriate to your child's age and ability to understand. Avoid telling them to much information.

4. Ask children of all ages, what they are hearing and what they have seeing on Television or social media. Take time to listen to what they know. Appease their concerns and take them seriously by trying to understand what they are experiencing. Don't confront your child's way of handling the experience.  Some children may be more curious than concerned.

4. Provide age appropriate education based on facts and the context of the situation. Give honest answers.  Teach older children that information is often limited or unknown and politically complicated. Teach them how to check the facts and create awareness of how the media/social media is often missing information or purposefully misleading. 

5. Avoid labeling  or stereotyping groups (good guys vs bad guys). A young child that is told they are being bad may think they are a bad guy. Use the actual names of the groups.

6. Encourage them to continue to talking and be willing to repeat answers and conversations if needed to provide understanding and reassurance.

7. Ask what they are thinking and feeling. Provide support and acknowledge their thoughts, feelings and reactions. Address their negative emotions by normalizing their feelings (You may feel the same way). Telling them if you are feeling worried or anxious can normalize their feelings. Avoid telling them all your worries and concerns. We should be reassuring them instead of them re-assuring us. Be mindful that young children may not be able to identify their feelings but may act-out instead.

8. Set an example. Children often listen to adult conversations even if you don't think so. Children learn from watching family, friends, and teachers. Be mindful of what you are saying and how they may interpret it. 

How to further help!

1. Maintain or establish daily routines and schedules to provide normalcy and reassurance.

2. Provide positive distractions- fun family outings, playing games, one on one time!

3. Help them process their feelings through play, art, poems, or stories.

4. Talk to teachers or other caregivers and ask them to limit conversation and exposure to the events. Provide them information about your child's struggles and how they can best help.

5. Take positive action together, if appropriate. i.e. write letters to soldiers, make care packages for children, create hygiene kits or make blankets to send.

6. Help them understand healthy ways to resolve conflicts through communication. 

7. Contact a professional counselor if needed.

How to help children with military families or family overseas.

1. Help children express their feelings and their very real concerns about the safety of their family.

2. Help children with frequently contacting family by calling, video, letters, texting or emails. This will help them feel more secure and connected to the absent family member.


(1)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32535808/#:~:text=Recent%20findings%3A%20Children's%20contact%20with,by%20stories%20about%20actual%20threat.

Friday, February 11, 2022

                                                 Positive Psychology 

The old question is still true. Are you a person that sees the glass as half full or  half empty? Almost from the start of the modern study of  psychology, researchers were glass half empty  people. The focus of the research was on mental  illness, abnormal behavior, or why people did bad  

things. There was a lot to study. The research has  

benefited our world in many ways with  

medications, treatment options, and hope for  

those suffering. Yet, the focus was on healing after  

damage or illness had already taken place. 

Interestingly, there wasn't a corresponding  

amount of study focused on the positive elements  

of humanity. Questions regarding how someone  

seems to be "unsinkable" just never got the full  

attention of the world of psychology. It was attributed to personal strength,  heredity, or pulling one's own bootstraps. 

In 1998, the world of psychology started to really take notice that new insights  could be gained by making serious science of how resilient and successful  people are resilient and successful. You may have noticed new concepts and  terms such as "mindfulness," "self-care," and "gratitude." These concepts  and terms have been covered in past posts on this blog. All came out of this  new world of psychological study. 

What are some of the most important things science has learned about positive  psychology? First, each person is unique and there is no secret plan to the  perfect life that fits for all of us. Science has taken a look at happiness and  identified three common building blocks; positive emotion, engagement, and  meaning (Seligman et al., 2004). 

Positive emotion is what most people are talking about when they casually  mention happiness. This may involve finding forgiveness for past events or  actions. It could involve savoring the moment as we live it. Of course, it also can involve optimism and hope. This is highly personal. It could be the simplicity of a hot bath. It can be  forgiveness for a long-held mistake. It can be the joy in the future of a new grandchild. 

Engagement is that thing that gets some people out of bed in the morning or drives them to work late without a sense of time passing. We enjoy being involved in something that earns us gratification. Engagement draws out our creativity,  perseverance, and appreciation. The interesting thing about engagement is  that shortcuts to success dampen the enjoyment. The experience and required  endurance are all part of the joy we find from the effort. 

Meaning is what brings color to our perspective of what we have done, what we  do in the moment, and what we will do in the future. Connection to something  bigger or of greater importance than our individual life is fulfilling. What holds meaning for someone can be highly unique. There are some common ideas  about what adds meaning to life such as knowledge, community, and justice. 

Positive psychology is relatively new and who knows what we will discover  about ways to develop and nurture happiness in the future. You can do your  part to further advance our knowledge by paying attention to the things that  bring you joy, the work that you love, and the purpose that drives you. Of  course, make sure to share your research with others. 

References 

Seligman, M. E. P., Parks, A. C., & Steen, T. (2004). A balanced psychology and a  full life. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B:  Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1379–1381. 

https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2004.1513


Tuesday, February 8, 2022


Resilience 



Some hear the word “resilience” and think of a stoic figure, solid and unmoved, by the events taking place, the enemies threatening, or the storm raging. This image often is of a warrior from an ancient time who is victorious over anything and everything. However, the image that most resembles “resilience” is a tennis ball. The ball is crushed and rebounds. It is designed to answer a reasonably expected crushing blow by expanding back to its original shape as quickly as it can so it can be ready for the next, coming impact. There is something important in both images. We may need to be logical and unwilling to let our emotions drive us to acting without wisdom or thought. This is the stoic warrior. This can be an extremely important mindset when emergencies take place. However, even stoic warriors are defeated, hurt, and in need of rest. It is the wisdom of the warrior to understand and expect this eventuality. Stoic is defined as, “a person who accepts what happens without complaining or showing emotion” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). The importance of the tennis ball is that crushing blows are, well, crushing. We hope to build ourselves and our children to understand that bad news is an expected part of life. However, like the tennis ball we hope to also build ourselves emotionally so that we can bounce back as soon as reasonable. If you are struggling with a crushing blow, pick up a tennis ball and consider how you can best bounce back. Realize that even tennis balls get worn down. Sometimes they can be revived with strong and steady support all around them. Sometimes it’s time to start over and invest in a new ball. 


References 

Merriam-Webster. (2021). Stoic. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stoic.